Over an espresso in Rome or tapas in Seville, chatting with local people about their own town – where they eat, what they do, their secret spots and favourite places – is one of the best ways to experience the true essence of a destination.
While this can be a real challenge for independent travellers, Trafalgar has an established network of friendly faces around the world that welcome guests into their homes – and lives – as part of our exclusive Be My Guest dining experiences. “The host families love having our guests at their homes and we know them so well now it feels just like friends visiting friends,” Trafalgar Contracts Manager, Christine Upton says. Christine travels throughout Europe establishing relationships with Be My Guest hosts who have the means to welcome guests in their own environment, rather than simply finding a restaurant in the area. She uses a balance of word of mouth, personal experience and sometimes a bit of luck.
“I’ve done a lot of door knocking and have met so many great people just by getting off the beaten track,” she says. There was the time in Tuscany when Christine stumbled upon an Agriturismo (a guest house that is part of a working farm) that she thought might make a possible venue for a Be My Guest dining experience. The sleepy teenager who answered the door directed Christine to her parent’s home a little further up the road – a 12th century castle completely hidden from view. “It was a surprise, therefore you would have had to have known it was there or you would never have found it,” she explains. She found that not only did the Baj Macario family actually live in the castle, they had vineyards and olive groves, and produced wine, olive oil and saffron. They now host regular Be My Guest experiences and enjoy meeting the people from all over the world who come to visit.
Having lived in France for a time, Christine also finds Be My Guest hosts from within her own circle of friends, such as Sally and Francois, who entertain guests in their gorgeous Provencal farmhouse. After working for various restaurants in London, the couple bought a rundown vineyard and farmhouse in the Luberon region. “Sally is actually English and a chef,” explains Christine. “Francois, a descendant of Napoleon, is a funny and enthusiastic wine-maker but also a great cook, musician and all-round entertainer. They are really hospitable and fun people.”
Christine says the best part of her job is meeting so many lovely people and of course, sampling the amazing local delicacies. “Many of the hosts have passed on wonderful recipes to me and I have made good use of these as well as their local cooking tips, back in my own home”, she says. “One of my particular favourites is the delicious chocolate torte made by Beatrice de Montferrier.” As the descendant of a very noble French family, Beatrice is the Marquise of Montferrier and the perfect hostess, warmly welcoming visitors to her 17th century farmhouse to taste the delicious cuisine of the Touraine region.
Trafalgar’s exclusive Be My Guest dining experiences capture the true essence of a destination as only an insider can. Visit www.trafalgar.com to learn how you can savour authentic foods and regional wines with locals, in ways you never could if traveling on your own.